October 2016

IZA DP No. 10305: Consumption and Leisure: The Welfare Impact of Migration on Family Left Behind

published as 'On the Joint Consumption and Labour Supply Effects of Migration on those Left Behind' in: Journal of Development Studies, 2020, 56 (1), 129 - 150

This paper examines the effect of international migration on the welfare of family members left behind at the origin. Previous literature has produced inconclusive evidence, with some studies suggesting that migration reduces income poverty while others show that non-migrants bear a larger work burden to compensate for the loss of migrants' earnings. This paper provides a new unified framework that generates testable predictions of whether migration increases non-migrants' welfare in terms of both consumption and leisure time. Drawing on household panel data in rural Mexico, I find that migration increases non-migrants' consumption, but that this consumption gain cannot be explained by labor supply adjustments. Migration improves left-behinds' welfare through two different channels: (i) migrants' remittances exceed their forgone income contribution to the origin household; and (ii) the out-migration of a farmer increases the marginal productivity of agricultural labor for those left behind in the farm.